Publication details for Professor Jo SetchellSetchell, J.M., Vaglio, S., Moggi-Cecchi, J., Boscaro, F., Calamai, L. & Knapp, L.A. (2010). Chemical composition of scent-gland secretions in an Old World monkey (Mandrillus sphinx): influence of sex, male status, and individual identity. Chemical Senses 35(3): 205-220.
- Publication type: Journal Article
- ISSN/ISBN: 0379-864X (print), 1464-3553 (online)
- DOI: 10.1093/chemse/bjp105
- Keywords: pheromones; gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry; dominance rank; signalling; olfaction; communication; microsmatic
- Further publication details on publisher web site
- Durham Research Online (DRO) - may include full text
Author(s) from Durham
Primates are traditionally considered to be microsmatic, with decreased reliance on olfactory senses in comparison to other sensory modalities such as vision. This is particularly the case for Old World monkeys and apes (catarrhines). However, various lines of evidence suggest that chemical communication may be important in these species, including the presence of a sternal scent-gland in the mandrill. We investigated the volatile components of mandrill odour using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. We identified a total of 97 volatile components in 88 swabs of the sternal gland secretion and 95 samples of sternal gland hair saturated with scent-gland secretion collected from 27 males and 18 females. We compared odour profiles with features of the signaller using principle components and discriminant function analyses, and found that volatile profiles convey both variable (age, dominance rank in males) and fixed (sex, possibly individual identity) information about the signaller. The combination of an odour profile that signals sex, age and rank with increased motivation to scent-mark and increased production of secretion in high-ranking males leads to a potent signal of the presence of a dominant, adult male with high testosterone levels. This may be particularly relevant in the dense Central African rain-forest which mandrills inhabit. By contrast, we were unable to differentiate between either female cycle stage or female rank based on odour profiles, which accords with behavioural studies suggesting that odour signals are not as important in female mandrills as they are in males. The similarity of our findings to those found in other mammals, and in primates that are more distantly related to humans, suggests a broader role for odour in primate communication than is currently recognised.